A few years ago I learned the story of the real Saint Patrick. His story is amazing, and a shining example to all of us believers. He was a humble man who lived a life marked by complete obedience and trust in God. I would like to share his story with you, so that you too may know the real story of Saint Patrick’s day (if you don’t already). unfortunately, this story has managed to get lost amidst a sea of shamrock t-shirts, beer, and corned beef; it is a real shame. Don’t get me wrong, I love Guinness just as much as the next person, but I think understanding the true history gives the annual remembrance a much deeper meaning, and recognizes God’s hand throughout history as well as His love for all people.
Patrick was born in the 5th century to Roman parents, who were living in Britain, a then Roman colony. At the age of 16 Patrick was kidnapped my Irish bandits and sold into slavery. For six years Patrick worked as a herdsman in the Irish hills. In the face of isolation, starvation, ill-treatment, and total loss of freedom, Patrick turned to God. He spent his entire days communing with God, and ultimately trusting that God had not abandoned him. It was while sleeping on one of these hills, that Patrick had a dream of great importance. God told him to go at once to the cost, where a ship would be waiting to take him home. Patrick obeyed, and made his escape to the coast, where a ship was in fact waiting. After a somewhat tumultuous journey during which he was nearly starved to death and briefly recaptured, Patrick arrived back in Britain and was reunited with his family.
Now, one would think that our Patrick would have kept his feet firmly planted in British soil, and steer clear of ships, but God had other plans. In yet another significant dream, God told Patrick to return to the Irish and bring them the Gospel. Patrick obeyed, and with no Jonah like reluctance. He became ordained as a priest and set sail once more to save the very same people who had enslaved and abused him.
Patrick preached the Gospel in Ireland for over 40 years. He traveled extensively throughout the island ministering, baptizing, making disciples and church planing. Martyrdom was always a possibility, and he was regularly threatened and imprisoned at least once. Patrick died in Ireland, at the site of the very first church he built. By that time thousands had heard and received the Gospel, and many fruitful churches were established.
Patrick has become a legend, and a Saint of the Catholic church. He is associated with Shamrocks, which legend would have it he used to illustrate the concept of the trinity. He is also credited with banishing all snakes from Ireland, after a group of unruly serpents assailed him while on a 40 day solitary fast. Some have recently begun to suggest that Patrick was in fact two individual men, who overtime merged into one historic figure. However, there are two existing papers which Patrick wrote, and the details of his life and generally accepted as fact. How did this amazing story, with pirates, daring escapes, prophetic dreams, and radical obedience and trust, get so lost? I have no idea. Let us all then, offer a toast, to Patrick the great Missionary and Evangelist to the Irish:
‘Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!’
(Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)